WAGONER — A former Muskogee man has been charged in the 1995 slaying of Donald Hawley following the reopening of Hawley's case in November of last year, said District 27 District Attorney Jack Thorp.
Kenneth Tyrone Brown, 58, was charged Tuesday morning with first-degree murder for his alleged role in the death of Hawley, 62, of Porter.
In April 1995, Hawley was found on the banks of the Verdigris River between Wagoner and Muskogee, bound and beaten and bereft of his wallet, according to an earlier release from Thorp's office. Hawley's truck was found five miles away.
Brown was initially implicated in the case in August 1995, states an affidavit filed with the charge, when then-Wagoner County Deputy Sheriff Rudy Briggs received information that Brown had bragged about killing a man in Tullahassee. Brown later told Briggs he didn't know anything about a killing in Wagoner County, the affidavit states.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation began reexamining the case in November, according to the release. Thorp recently requested help from the public in solving the case. The investigation team has a key piece of evidence which establishes Brown as the killer, Thorp said.
"[OSBI] has the labs, so you can find evidence from the past — now with more and more scientific advances, they can really bring this scientific evidence to light," Thorp said. "There’s a very specific piece of evidence in this case that was located and submitted and tested and provided a lot of forensic evidence."
That evidence, according to the affidavit, is a pair of socks found near Hawley's pickup. The blood matched Hawley's partial DNA profile, the affidavit notes. Human hairs recovered from the socks initially cast suspicion on Brown when they were matched up with his profile from an offender database.
It wasn't until September 2019 that further evidence was discovered on one of the socks — a sample of Brown's semen.
"The sock contained a single source male DNA profile (epithelial fraction) and a single source male DNA profile (sperm fraction.) Both male DNA profiles were consistent with the known DNA partial profile of Kenneth Brown," states the affidavit penned by OSBI Special Agent Kurt Titsworth.
The investigation will remain ongoing, Thorp said, as the team searches for a potential second attacker.
"There’s a strong possibility that there was two people that committed this crime," Thorp said. "This investigation is going to continue trying to identify who that second attacker might be."
Brown is serving a life sentence in prison for the May 1995 murder of Elizabeth Alloway, who was beaten in the head with a blunt instrument and run over with her car. He remains in custody at the James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helen.
Faye Banks was an investigator with the Muskogee Police Department when the Hawley and Alloway murders occurred. Her notes mention that Brown is suspected in the murder of several people, not just Alloway. That information brought the OSBI to her door when investigating Hawley's murder, she said.
"OSBI made contact with me and said he seems to maybe be possibly involved with some other deaths, and I think that’s the case in Wagoner," Banks said. "They made contact with me several months ago and I’ve been helping them with information I had on the Beth Alloway case and the Gilbert Brown case."
Kenneth Brown was held as a material witness in the slaying of James Gilbert Brown, who was found stabbed and beaten in an abandoned house in August 1996. Brown also became a person of suspicion in the brutal beatings of vacuum salesman Carlton Weaver and a man from Bartlesville named Harold Layton, both in March 1996. All three crimes remain unsolved.
"I linked him to several deaths — whether he was person that caused them, I’m not sure, I could not get that far with the cases, but he was familiar with each of those persons I mentioned in that newspaper report," Banks said.
Banks was "all for" the idea that her testimony could help with another conviction, she said.
"I told them about the information I had, and if one more victim’s family can get some answers, that’s great," Banks said. "Hopefully the charges will be filed and we can get another conviction on him if he did it."
Thorp echoed the sentiment: reopening and solving cold cases brought families some measure of peace, he said.
"You have these families whose loved one was killed and law enforcement works the case. All of that hope is built up, then you never get an answer," Thorp said. "But when you come back with a new set of eyes to look at these cases you can bring justice to families that a lot of times have given up hope."